When the coronavirus pandemic hit Hollywood earlier this year, shutting down productions and throwing the industry into chaos, not even television veteran Michael Ellenberg, the former HBO drama chief responsible for ordering series iconic such as “Westworld”, “Big Little Lies”, “True Detective” and “The Leftovers” could have predicted such a robust and industry-wide call to arms.
“What if you told me today that Hollywood would have an extensive set of testing protocols for all of these productions and the White House wouldn’t?” It speaks for itself, ”Ellenberg said during an opening speech at Rome’s MIA Market on Thursday.
But the founder and CEO of production company Media Res, which this week resumed production of Apple TV Plus ‘The Morning Show’ series, noted that the film and television industry is, within it, “a business. problem-solving team ‘perfectly equipped to handle a crisis.
“There is a logistics genius in Hollywood who is second to none in any other industry,” he said. “Slowly but surely, tackling [issues] like producers always do, you go piece by piece. You look at all the dimensions. You adjust and tinker. Square plugs in round holes. Hollywood is better than most at solving it. “
Ellenberg was speaking on the first day at her company’s Los Angeles offices since the start of the pandemic, with cameras set to roll on the second season of the Apple series with Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell.
The show’s executive producer said the creative team had “had to react to the present moment and all the ways the world has changed over the past six months,” while creating the story arc of the second season. The production nuts and bolts were also radically transformed. “It filters through everything from places to work on stage to the number of people on set. It has a VFX effect. There is hardly any aspect of the production that is not colored by this.
While the multi-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus introduced a unique set of challenges for production, Ellenberg noted that adaptability is built into the nature of today’s television industry.
“In the past television was more: ‘It works, now we know what the formula is. So let’s do this, ”” he said. “And I think what’s exciting about modern television, but also more difficult, is once you understand the formula… you have to be very rigorous to break the formula a little and reinvent it every year to keep a series. vital.
“It has to be fresh and new every year,” he added. “Even with the kind of cast we have and the talent we have, there is a lot of competition for people’s attention. And the public is demanding innovation, whether it’s the pilot or Episode 205. “
When Ellenberg landed at HBO in 2011, he said, “You were witnessing the start of this migration of talent” as the film and television industry began to undergo a seismic change.
“I didn’t go with a master plan. I thought I would do it for a few years and then when I go back to the movies I would know something about TV, ”he said. “And then the whole world changed. Cinema and television, really what’s going on, they merge. This is what is happening, and probably this period of pandemic is accelerating it.
Media Res is currently developing “Scenes From a Marriage,” a limited-series adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s classic film, for HBO, although Ellenberg has said international co-productions will be a bigger part of the company’s focus at the future.
“When we pitched, I expected us to do a lot. And then the explosion of streaming here changed part of the need for co-productions, ”he said. “I think there are fewer co-financing opportunities in the market, at least at the premium level, than before. And there may be less need. Because the truth is, streamers have had a lot of money so far. We will see if that changes in this economic climate.
Ellenberg said she was inspired by the “innovative” co-production model of “The Young Pope” by Paolo Sorrentino, an ambitious joint venture between HBO, Sky and Canal Plus. “I think what is essential [with co-productions] is to understand what you are looking for, ”he says. “Besides setting the rules of the road, it’s really clear to know what the partner’s needs are and then design the relationship around that. The cliché, the creative alignment – that’s essential.
The same goes for the need for a “truly unique material [that] moves the market, ”he said, adding,“ It’s kind of the financial model. And the creative, more spiritual model is that you can create a haven of peace for artists, for creators, to incubate really original work … it’s a way of telling really original stories and doing hear original voices.
He continued, “The culture industry is much more drawn to provocative and cutting edge material, coming from voices that normally in the past would never receive the kind of financial support the industry will give them now. That’s exciting. There is a business model around originality. This is the real truth. It’s the deep thing that’s going on.
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